Your child’s body image starts with you

A recent article in Glamour magazine has left some gasps amongst parents and young ladies alike and it’s all to do with that touchy subject of “body image” again.  A few of the statements that come from within are attached to the minds of girls as young as 9 and 10 – now that’s frightening.

What has happened to make young girls/people so vain and so self conscious?  And what are these statements of self hate doing to the self esteem of such young people?

body_image1Surely this can’t be a positive platform to base your emotions on – imagine the issues that could arise in adulthood with such instability at tweenie stage!  Now I’m not saying that grooming and loving oneself should slip down the list of priorities – not at all – I think as the world evolves and as we evolve as people that we take pride in stating that 60 is the new 40, 50 is the new 30 and 40 is the new 20 etc.  We are more conscious of mindfulness, treating others as we wish to be treated, and I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t desire to live a long, healthy, happy and peaceful life.

BUT there is an underlying “need” being pumped into the minds of young people to look a certain way to achieve acceptance whatever the cost.  This is starting a stressful trend and developing a stressed out generation and as a result this happy healthy life is becoming more challenging and utterly not achievable.  Are the images of perfection in the media taking their toll?

Take a read of this excerpt from the Glamour article  …

We challenged young women across the country to note every negative or anxious thought they had about their bodies over the course of one full day. The results shocked us: A whopping 97 percent admitted to having at least one “I hate my body” moment.

“You are a fat, worthless pig.” “You’re too thin. No man is ever going to want you.” “Ugly. Big. Gross.” Horrifying comments on some awful website? The rant of an abusive, controlling boyfriend? No; shockingly, these are the actual words young women are saying to themselves on any typical day.

In this age of massive cosmetic surgery, bombarded by unhealthy stereotypes from advertisements (You’re not Okay but we can make you Okay), and the media showing waif-like models who really need to eat a hamburger… it seems as if we’re sunk. But is it just about looks? Glamour says not…

When Glamour analyzed the data to look for a cause of these ruthless thoughts, a fascinating trend emerged: Respondents who were unsatisfied with their career or relationship tended to report more negative body thoughts than women who were content in those areas. What’s more,feeling uncomfortable emotions of any sort—stress, loneliness, even boredom—made many women start berating their looks.

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Children mirror their parents. We know this in a big way. So how is a woman’s body image affecting her children (especially young girls)?

According to Mirror Mirror Over fifty percent of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet(, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 18 percent of adolescents are really overweight. About 80 percent of girls in this age group say tha
t they have dieted in an attempt to lose weight.

Yikes and double yikes! As a mother to two amazing young ladies I find myself asking “What can we do?”

 

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Challenge the images your children see:

 

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Studies show that the more reality television a young girl watches, the more likely she is to find appearance important. Monitor what your child watches on TV, on the Internet, and what they read. Talk to them about everything they see.  Body image is a big part of self-esteem.  Negative self-esteem in adolescents can sometimes lead to all sorts of problems: eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide.

 

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Explain about photo retouching (i.e. photoshop) and you can even show them videos on how this is done to make women look unrealistic. Teach your children that one size doesn’t fit all and we are all meant to look different.

Do As I Do

If you have a negative body image or low self esteem, you must address it.  More importantly, stay aware of the language and phrases said in front of your daughters. As a mother it’s vital to find the strength to avoid making bad comments about yourself.

And while most of us don’t think twice about saying “I’m not eating dessert tonight – I’m still trying to lose those last five pounds” in front of our kids, such comments have power.

According to a study by Harvard Medical School researchers, a mother’s concerns about her own body weight are a leading cause of body image problems in adolescents.

If you’re obsessed about dieting or diet related products, guess what? Your daughter will be too. Begin to replace words like “diet” with “healthy” and you’ll be on your way.

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And Do As I Say:

Don’t use words like “fat” and “diet” around the home – I know it’s really difficult.  Young kids, especially girls, are impressionable and susceptible, so teach them to be comfortable with their developing bodies. Convey this with phrases such as, “Honey, that dress really flatters you” and “You are beautiful inside and out.” Don’t tease them about their weight, body shape or looks. Even seemingly friendly nicknames can be hurtful if they focus on some aspect of the child’s appearance.

Don’t disparage yourself about ANYTHING. Not even in jest. Self deprecating may seem ‘funny’ to you but it’s truly just another habit your kids will pick up that is detrimental. Remember, body image is only part of self image. You don’t want your daughters to put themselves down in any way right? Then you don’t do it.  This is important. The best way to raise healthy, happy daughters who like themselves is to show them that YOU LIKE YOURSELF TOO. It’s hard work. I know this. But so worth it… for your welfare AND theirs.

 

Having a healthy self image is not about thinking, “I feel good about myself in every way all the time” because part of being human is continual improvement. But if we (and our daughters) feel so bad about how we look and who we are that we don’t leave our house or hang out with our friends or say negative things about our appearance, then it’s affecting our lives and as a result our daughter’s lives.

And, according to the current literature, one in four women in Western culture will have an eating disorder — anorexia or bulimia — in their lifetimes. Let’s attempt to change this. Not only for our own happiness but for the girls who look to us as role models.

 

How do you deal with your own body image?

Do you have children who are concerned about their body image based on someone they idolise in the media?

Would love to hear your thoughts on how your deal with this.

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